…Jeffrey gives to you…Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa”! BOB DYLAN?!?! Yep. Dylan. The bard of ages. The poet laureate of the past 4 decades. Yes. That Dylan.
At first listen, Dylan’s first venture into seasonal music might appear disconcerting, as if you’re not sure his interpretation of hymnals as disparate (for him) as “Little Drummer Boy”, “Oh, Little Town Of Bethlehem” and the ilk is a middle finger-in-cheek to the traditionalists who he had to know he’d piss off for the sheer audacity. But spelunking the negative reviews online, one has to laugh – it’s as if this is the first time they heard Dylan sing. Non-Dylan fans have always disparaged his voice; CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART is perfect fodder for them. For the rest of us who love Dylan, it’s as cozy, comfortable and warm as roasting chestnuts on an open fire with your favorite grandpa…snockered on too much eggnog, but endearing and heartfelt enough.
Even for Dylan’s worshippers, initially hearing the CD was uneasy. As a carol lover, I couldn’t imagine hearing Dylan’s aged croak (which of course is superlative within his own work) singing some of my favorite holiday tunes. But then something happened. I listened to it again. Then again. And I realized that there wasn’t a smidgen of cheekiness, not a dash of a smirk, nor a soupcon of irony. Here was a man who appeared passionate about this latest endeavor – whether it’s the yearning of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” or the jocular “Christmas Island”, I can’t recall the last time his reading of others’ work were sung with such honesty, wit and melancholia juxtaposed with shameless joviality. CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART is not for everyone. Some will hate it, and it’s definitely not the tool to convert a non-practicing Dylanite. You can consider it a sorta 30-year happy conclusion to his artistically sterile “born-again Christian” albums SLOW TRAIN COMING, SAVED and the dreadful SHOT OF LOVE .
Also, kudos to Dylan for his charity – all proceeds from the sale of the CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART go to the Feeding America foundation to end hunger. So, Merry Christmas, indeed…
I admit I’ve never heard “Must Be Santa” before Dylan’s cover, but already it’s becoming one of my favorite seasonal jams, my life-long antipathy for Polka notwithstanding. Watching the frenzied, exuberant nonsensical video, which could be an unknowing homage to Albert Finney’s “Thank You Very Much” from the musical “Scrooge”, only enhances the sonic pleasures of the track.